A recent press release and media reports indicate that Stellantis is not only opening a new battery development facility, but it is also aiming for an ambitious goal: 50% weight reduction with the same energy stored.
The New Facility
A few days ago, Stellantis marked the opening of its inaugural Battery Technology Center at the Mirafiori complex in Turin, Italy.
The €40 million investment in the state-of-the-art center strengthens Stellantis’ capabilities in designing, developing, and testing battery packs, modules, high-voltage cells, and software for upcoming Stellantis brand vehicles. This center, the largest in Italy and among the largest in Europe, is home to over 100 employees at the Mirafiori Battery Technology Center. These skilled workers will oversee climatic stress tests, lifespan durability testing, battery management system (BMS) software development and calibration, as well as perform tear downs for analysis and benchmarking purposes.
Stellantis is also constructing a Battery Technology Center in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, as part of a global network of battery development and manufacturing facilities, including six gigafactories, so this is part of a larger global effort.
“We are in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to redefine mobility, providing smart and sustainable solutions for our customers,” said Ned Curic, Stellantis Chief Engineering and Technology Officer. “Our new Battery Technology Center at Mirafiori brings together the tools and talented people we need to design, test, verify and produce class-leading products that will meet our customers’ needs and accelerate bringing class-leading electric vehicles to customers around the world.”
Stellantis says it aims to implement a vertically integrated approach for electric vehicle battery packs, encompassing design, development, testing, and production. This forms the core of its strategy to deliver top-notch BEVs with customer-centric performance. The battery plan, as outlined in the EV Day 2021 presentation, features a dual chemistry strategy to cater to all customers, efficient design of battery cells and modules, and cost-competitive housing and pack assembly.
The Mirafiori Battery Technology Center spans 8,000 square meters (86,111 square feet) across three levels. It houses 32 climatic test chambers, with 24 walk-in chambers for battery pack testing and eight chambers for cell testing. 24 walk-in chambers enable precise control of humidity and temperature, ranging from -40 to 60 degrees Celsius (-40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit) with a maximum change rate of 20 degrees per minute. The center can simultaneously test up to 47 battery packs, too, so they’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t a lot faster.
The technology center is designed to accommodate future growth, with a power system capable of managing up to 1.2 kilovolts (kV) and 2.2 megawatts (MW) per test cell. With eight cell chambers, it has the capacity to test 96 cells simultaneously. This section of the technology center will primarily focus on screening innovative battery chemistry and characterizing cell behavior for future development.
As part of the Dare Forward 2030 strategic plan, Stellantis aims to achieve a 100% passenger car BEV sales mix in Europe and a 50% passenger car and light-duty truck BEV sales mix in the United States by 2030. To meet these targets, the company is securing around 400 GWh of battery capacity, supported by six battery manufacturing plants in North America and Europe. Stellantis says it is also committed to becoming a carbon net zero corporation by 2038, inclusive of all scopes, with single-digit percentage compensation for any remaining emissions.
The Bigger News Came From In-Person Reporting
A recent Reuters report from the event told us something that the press release didn’t: that the company has the ambitious goal of cutting battery weights in half, while still storing the same number of kilowatt-hours.
“So what I have in mind and a very hard goal for my team by 2030 is to change the battery weight to at least 50% lighter battery,” said Ned Curic, the group’s technology chief, during the battery facility’s opening. He went on to say that they don’t think heavy battery packs are very good for sustainability, and to really achieve environmental goals, that pack weights must come down, and relatively quickly.
But, the company’s tech chief says they aren’t really sure exactly how they’ll achieve the goal. They plan to try different cell chemistries, new materials, and anything else that they think might work, and do it all in their new facility.
But, that doesn’t mean that EV progress must wait for the new battery designs to come to fruition. Stellantis does plan to announce a mass-market affordable EV later this year, and they’re working on EV goals with current battery chemistries. The goal of better batteries is meant for future models, in other words.
What’s Great About This
What’s great about this goal is that it isn’t doing what Toyota does, and using promises of future technology as an excuse for lack of EV progress today.
As many readers are aware, Toyota and some other automakers send out new announcements about breakthrough solid-state battery technology, and how it’s going to give seemingly unreal performance and range benefits. But, in the meantime, they don’t offer much in the way of EV models using today’s technology to get the world transitioning before better things come along.
I can’t speak for what Toyota’s people are thinking internally or saying to each other internally, but it leads many EV fans and people concerned about climate change to believe that Toyota is just using the announcements as a way to kick the can down the road when it could be doing better today.
Whether Stellantis follows through on big plans between now and 2030 is something only time can prove, but it is at least trying to do more EVs today while working on future battery technology instead of using announcements as a crutch. If the company follows through with more EV models between now and 2030, this will definitely be a good thing.
The other thing that’s important here is that we do need better future battery tech. Lighter vehicle weights and/or more range is important for environmental impacts, interior space, towing ability, handling, and safety in electric cars. Better batteries can also benefit aviation, by making the numbers for long-range flight work better. Micromobility with double the range would also be extremely nice, too.
So, all around, this is a great announcement, and I hope it pans out!
Feature image provided by Stellantis.
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